Anyone that has ever shopped with babies and toddlers knows that it is not particularly relaxing.
If you're a mother of a toddler then you can probably relate to some or all of the following:
- having to ditch your trolley full of groceries to race a recently toilet-trained toddler to the bathroom
- picking up toys or grocery items over and over, and then over and over again.
- repeating 'don't touch' at least 386 times while in the supermarket
- saying 'OK, I'm going now, see you later' to your toddler who is refusing to leave the toy aisle - then praying under your breath that they won't call your bluff as you walk slowly away.
- Getting all the way to the shopping center, just to spend 90% of your time there feeding, changing babies or taking your children to the bathroom.
- Needing a nap yourself after your shopping adventure
- Being that parent. You know, the one with the screaming child throwing a huge tantrum on the floor of the shops.
So, after many failed shopping 'adventures', I now have a few favourite ways that I have found work well to keep my two active munchkins entertained and happy while shopping. Here are my top ten tips for shopping with toddlers:
1. Use a trolley. I have found letting the children sit in a trolley instead of the pram allows me to engage them in the shopping and talk and play with them while we shop.
2. Allow them to bring a toy. Having a toy in their hand seems to help keep them happy for a certain amount of time.
3. Our children get a small amount of pocket money once they achieve a certain number of stickers on their reward charts at home. I let them spend their pocket money to buy a new toy around the middle of our shopping trip. They have to behave well for the first half in order to spend their pocket money that day, then the new toy usually helps keep them entertained for the second half of the trip. (Even at 3.5 and 21months both children love this - and HJ is beginning to learn about the difference between toys that he can afford and toys that are too expensive).
4. After the kids have been stuck in the trolley for a while we stop and have a play at the park (our local shopping center has small indoor and outdoor parks). It allows them to burn of some energy and again, encourages them to behave well.
5. My little miss has reached the age where she wants to walk when her big brother does, so when it is appropriate and safe I let her out and she is learning to stay with us and not touch. If she stops listening then she has to get back into the trolley.
6. Plenty of nutritious snacks and drinks (preferably ones that take a while to eat) keep them occupied and happy for the trip.
7. Plain old bribery works a treat too. I usually give a treat, or a ride on the small Merry-Go-Rounds or rides that the shops have if the children have behaved really well. They know they will get one or the other so that is usually good motivation to listen.
8. Avoid sugary treats or ones full of colouring or preservatives as they can have an adverse affect on behaviour. If you are looking for a good idea for a treat (and the healthy versions aren't enticing enough), try a small packet of chips. Although they do contain salt, most plain potato crisps don't have too many nasties and as a special treat, are not a bad alternative.
9. Keep shopping as fun as possible. Keep the children engaged. Get them to help wherever and whenever possible, getting items for you, or even just spotting the items and pointing them out. If you keep them engaged they will enjoy it a lot more.
10. Try and time your shopping trips well. A tired child is a grumpy child so be prepared that as it gets close to nap time your child's behaviour will deteriorate and its best to leave or let them rest.
So there are my top ten tips for shopping with toddlers! If you've got any to add I'd love to hear - leave a comment and let me know!